Waterbury Chief Makes Report
(From Our Regular Correspondent)
The thirty-sixth annual report the chief of the Waterbury, Conn., fire department. Henry H. Heitman, is being put into printed form for distribution. The chief in his annual statement this year talks plainly on “fire subjects,” referring in part to criticism of the department for its handling of certain fires, also to the compliments extended to the department for its apparent great success in the stopping of others. He also refers to an inquiry conducted by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, in which much criticism was made of the construction of certain buildings of the city, some of which suffered a fire loss during the last year. The chief agrees with the charge, but wonders how it is owners of such property have so little difficulty in having their insurance renewed by the insurance interests of the country.
“If owners refuse to improve buildings and keep them as free from added fire danger as possible,” said the chief, “one of the best ways to force them to improve their premises is through the insurance interests. To my mind, it is just as essential for the insurance interests to act in matters of this kind as it is for the department of fire in any municipality.”
In part. Chief Heitman continued his report as follows:
“In our work of the past year we have been criticized for the handling of certain fires and complimented for the apparent good work at others. And then, too, formal complaint was made against me to the mayor and Board of Public Safety for my alleged neglect to pump out the cellar following the fire at the plant of the Ludington Cigarette Machine Company. The committee of the safety board which handled the question, in its finding, said in part: ‘It seems to your committee that the damage done in the basement was due to a lack of precaution in not properly shelving the stock. . . . The committee considers that the chief acted within his rights, as he did not have control of the proper equipment with which to do the pumping.’ Personally, it makes no difference to me whether the department is called upon to pump out cellars flooded during fires. But thus far I have never been instructed by my superiors to make this part of the work of the fire department. Until I am so instructed, and the department supplied with the necessary equipment, I fail to see how we can change the policy adhered to for many years. The National Board of Fire Underwriters, in a special supplement issued October 15, 1918, following the various fires in and about Exchange Place, took occasion to state that the department should make more thorough and frequent inspection of buildings; yet the fact is the fire marshal ever since his appointment last March has been devoting practically all of his time to this work, the inspections by other officers being under his supervision. The same supplement criticizes the construction of the buildings that suffered from fire, but so far as we are aware the owners have never had the least trouble in having their property insured, or reinsured following the fire.”
Chief Heitman in his opening paragraph submits the amount of loss by fire during the year just closed, and says that 1918 was a rather disastrous year in fire losses, the estimated damage being $450,572.83, of which amount $67,726.5,3 was uninsured and therefore lost to the owners of property where fire occurred. Summarized, the losses and values follow: Value of buildings and contents, $3,467,619.80; estimated loss on buildings, $202,111.84; estimated loss on contents, $248,460.99; total loss, $450,572.83.